Cameroon-Chad: Refugees flooding into Cameroon
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||4 February 2008|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Cameroon-Chad: Refugees flooding into Cameroon, 4 February 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47b461471e.html [accessed 25 May 2013]|
"We are concerned that if fighting continues we will see more and more people fleeing in coming days. And for those who do not flee, we are worried they will get trapped in the fighting," Helene Caux, spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) warned.
Kate de Rivero, a spokesperson for the French non-governmental organisation (NGO) Médecins Sans Frontières which is one of the few aid agencies with staff still in N'djamena told IRIN in the morning on 4 February that the capital's usually quiet streets were clogged, as many of the 700,000 people who live in the city heeded a rebel warning to flee before the second wave of attacks begin.
"It's hard for the MSF staff to get across town to evaluate the situation because there are so many people in the street," she said by telephone from Paris.
Most expatriates were airlifted out of the country by the French military over the weekend and the UN has evacuated all but a small number of operational staff.
Cameroon's police service, which is monitoring fifteen border crossings, reported to UNHCR that many of the first arrivals had extended families in Cameroon, but the numbers are now too great for people to cope, Caux said.
Most of the new arrivals are grouped in Kousseri, an isolated border town connected to N'djamena's outskirts by a bridge across the Chari River, which delineates the border between Chad and Cameroon. Kousseri is 1,000 km north of the Cameroon capital Yaoundé.
"Kousseri is very remote, which makes it difficult to set up programmes there, or to know exactly what is going on," said Caux. UNHCR is re-opening an office Kousseri and sending a team of staff just evacuated from N'djamena to Kousseri to assess the extent of the needs.
The agency will also fly in a plane full of basic supplies, such as kitchen materials, plastic sheeting and water containers in the next few days, according to Caux. A UNHCR statement on 4 February said shipments of supplies are also being diverted from eastern Cameroon and will arrive in Kousseri around Wednesday.
The Cameroon Red Cross is already on the ground in Kousseri, assessing the situation, according to Noora Kero, spokesperson for the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC).
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the NGO Action Against Hunger, said their staff are on their way to assess the situation.
So far no refugee arrivals have been recorded in Chad's other neighbours Niger, Central African Republic, Sudan, or Nigeria.
Although heavy fighting was reported in the eastern border town Adré, no reports were received of refugees entering Sudan.
Weekend fighting in N'djamena has left dead bodies littering the streets of the capital, according to news reports from the city.
Telephone and internet services to Chad have been cut and the state radio and television stations have gone off the air, limiting information flowing from the city.
"It's a very complex and difficult situation and very insecure," L. Craig Johnstone, UNHCR's deputy high commissioner, told CNN in an interview on 4 February.
"Clearly a lot of people are moving around the country and there is a lot of movement of armed elements to and from N'djamena," he said. "It remains to be seen what the situation in N'djamena is."
Relatively few civilians and combatants had arrived at the hospitals in the city by the morning of 4 February, MSF's de Rivero said. "The fighting was heavy and it was hard for people to get to the hospitals," she told IRIN. Most of the people treated by MSF had bullet wounds, she said.